Retired Feb. 1, 1965. Died Oct. 3, 1990.
General Curtis Emerson LeMay is the fifth chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
The general was born at Columbus, Ohio, in 1906. He attended Columbus public schools and Ohio State University. In 1928 he entered the armed services as a flying cadet. He completed pilot training at Kelly Field, Texas, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Corps Reserve in October 1929. He received a regular commission in January 1930.
The general's first tour of duty was with the 27th Pursuit Squadron at Selfridge Field, Mich. He served in various assignments in fighter operations before transferring to bomber aircraft in 1937. General LeMay participated in the first mass flight of B-17 Flying Fortresses to South America in 1938. This won for the 2nd Bomb Group the Mackay Trophy for outstanding aerial achievement. Prior to U.S. entry into World War II, he pioneered air routes over the South Atlantic to Africa and over the North Atlantic to England.
General LeMay organized and trained the 305th Bombardment Group in 1942 and led that organization to combat in the European Theater. He developed formation procedures and bombing techniques that were used by B-17 bomber units throughout the European Theater of Operations. These fundamental procedures and techniques were later adapted to the B-29 Super Fortresses which fought the war to its conclusion in the Pacific.
As commanding general of the 3rd Bombardment Division, (England), he led the famed Regensberg raid, a B-17 shuttle mission that originated in England, struck deep in Germany and terminated in Africa. In July 1944 he was transferred to the Pacific to direct the B-20 heavy bombardment activities of the 20th Bomber Command in the China-Burma-India Theater. He later commanded the 21st Bomber Command with headquarters on Guam, and still later became chief of staff of the Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific. At the conclusion of World War II he returned to the United States piloting a B-29 Super Fortress on a non-stop record flight from Hokkaido, Japan, to Chicago, Ill.
The general's first post-war assignment was to Headquarters Air Materiel Command. He was then transferred to the Pentagon at Washington, D.C., to be the first deputy chief of air staff for research and development.
In October 1947 General LeMay was selected to command the U. S. Air Forces in Europe with headquarters at Wiesbaden, Germany. He organized air operations for the famous Berlin Airlift. A year later he returned to the United States, assumed command of the newly formed Strategic Air Command, and established its headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. This central location was to become the nerve center of a worldwide bomber-missile force.
The general built, from the remnants of World War II, an all jet bomber force, manned and supported by professional airmen dedicated to the preservation of peace. The general commanded SAC for nearly 10 years, and under his leadership and supervision, plans were laid for the development and integration of an intercontinental ballistic missile capability.
In July 1957 General LeMay was appointed vice chief of staff of the United States Air Force and served in that capacity until July 1961, at which time he was appointed chief of staff.
General LeMay graduated with a bachelor of civil engineering degree and is a distinguished alumnus of the College of Engineering, Ohio State University. He holds honorary doctor of laws degrees from John Carroll University, Kenyon College, the University of Southern California, Creighton University and the University of Akron. He also holds honorary doctor of science degrees from Tufts, Ohio State University and the University of Virginia, and an honorary doctor of engineering degree from Case Institute of Technology. His fraternal organizations include Sigma Tau, Tau Beta Pi and Theta Tau.
His distinguished service has won him many awards and decorations from his government, as well as from foreign governments. The United States has awarded him the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, the Distinguished Unit Citation with oak leaf cluster, the American Defense Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three service stars, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four service stars, the World War II Victory Medal, the Army of Occupation Medal with the Berlin Airlift emblem, the Medal for Humane Action and the National Defense Service Medal.
His foreign decorations include the British Distinguished Flying Cross; the French Legion of Honor-Degree of Commander, and the Croix de Guerre with Palm; the Brazilian Order of the Southern Cross, and the Order of Aeronautical Merit, the Russian Order of Patriotic War-1st Degree; the Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palm; the Moroccan Oissam Alaouite, the Chilean Order of Merit and Medalla Militar de Primera Clase; the Argentinean Order of Aeronautical Merit--Grade of Grand Official and Grade of Grand Cross; the Swedish Commander of the Grand Cross of the Royal Order of the Sword; the Ecuadorian Order of Aeronautical Merit (Knight Commander) and the Uruguayan Aviador Militar Honoris Causa (Piloto Commandante).
General LeMay was an active, jet qualified command pilot. He also holds the aeronautical ratings of aircraft observer, combat observer and technical observer.